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How to fight against metaphysics and pseudoscience?

  1. Jan 2, 2009 #1
    How to fight against metaphysics and pseudoscience?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 2, 2009 #2


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    It depends on what they are arguing. Different answers for different misunderstandings.
  4. Jan 2, 2009 #3


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    Prepare for failure. Most people who believe in that crap just don't want to know the truth and won't accept it when it's presented to them.
  5. Jan 2, 2009 #4
    So true, but what if their teaching metaphysics to people who doesn't know physics or metaphysics?
  6. Jan 2, 2009 #5


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    Then you focus upon those that they are trying to mis-teach. The teachers are beyond hope, but maybe you can save an innocent student. Present your arguments to them in a rational manner. Most importantly, admit if you don't know the specifics of a situation, rather than blundering through it, and offer to look up the answers. It's counter-productive to fight BS with more BS.
  7. Jan 2, 2009 #6
    Different people seem to have different tastes for different kinds of information. I've often thought this is why some people grow up to be devoutly religious and others hardcore logical empiricists.

    I know a guy who was interested in physics and who I talked with about it, and he was constantly into pseudo science and conspiracy theories. He could name off all this stuff about HAARP; UFO's; the illumanati; 911 conspiracies; perpetual motion etc.

    I would tell him about information to read about but for some reason he just was not interested in anything like special relativity or other well known and observed phenomenon that were still pretty bizarre but are definitely true.

    He would tell me about some new awesome phenomenon and I would look it up on wikipedia and see that it said in brackets (pseudoscience). I read the article and see that it says that no one has been able to replicate the experiment and the creator has no credibility in the scientific community. I explain this stuff to him but he just doesn't seem interested.
  8. Jan 3, 2009 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    A few comments: First of all, if one thinks about it properly, no subject is in itself pseudoscience. As does "science", "psuedoscience" refers to a methodology.

    Take my favorite example of UFOs: UFOs are not pseudoscience. First of all, many UFOS are explained in conventional terms using conventional information. For example, if there is supporting information that at 4:30 PM, on Tuesday, an F117 made a low flyover of a populated area, and we get UFO reports from that area at the proper time describing a delta shaped craft, is it pseudoscience to say that the reported observations were probably an F117 on a test flight? Of course not. However, you will find many so called ufologists engaged in pseudoscience. Credible scientists interested in UFOs look for conventional explanations for well documented UFO events, and then they seek to falsify the conventional explanations for the reports using conventional science, where possible. Then they look for any interesting residue. Pseudoscience seeks to explain the reports in unconventional terms and using unscientific methods.

    In fact, I would go another step and suggest that it is pseudoscience to call any reported phenomena or study thereof pseudoscience! Phenomena and reported observations are just that. Often, there is no burden of proof as the events are often transient and not repeatable; there is no particular claim except to say that such and such was observed. But, when we attempt to prove, explain, or in particular, to interpret the information, we can get into trouble very quickly. The other most common mistakes are to assume that evidence is proof, and to treat anecdotal evidence as something more than an anecdote. Also, making a false claim is not pseudoscience. We already have a name for that; it is called lying.

    Is perpetual motion pseudoscience? Of course not; it is a concept. But to claim that PPM can be achieved through some magical process that circumvents known science is pseudoscience.

    Another form of pseudoscience is to declare a claim to be false when the claim has not been falsified - or to claim pseudoscience where there is none. So, many of those yelling "pseudoscience!" are often practicing the same by making the accusation. We might assume a claim to be false by way of skepticism, or by using the rule of thumb of Occams' razor, but this is not proof that a claim is false. However, many people have tried to treat it as such. Again, this is a failed methodology and pseudoscientific.

    As for people who insist on believing incredible claims given no supporting evidence, or those who insist on accepting claims already disproven by science, I think you are fighting human nature. At that point it becomes more a matter of faith - religion. In fact, unless someone is going to practice science, you might consider that you could actually do harm by disproving a person's beliefs. Maybe they cling to those beliefs as a way to get through the day. IMO, if someone really wants to know the truth, they will be open to explanations. If they resist explanations to the point of being irrational, then you are dealing with a human need to believe.

    Ironically, I think this happens to many UFO debunkers. They have some intrinsic need to believe that ET couldn't be here, so any claim of an unexplained phenomenon is a threat to that belief, and they become irrational. In fact it is common to find that UFO debunkers know very little about the subject.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2009
  9. Jan 3, 2009 #8
    Why the hell do you want to spend your life and energy fighting them? Just ignore them and work on your research, it will be better for everyone.
  10. Jan 3, 2009 #9


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    Wait, why the neg towards metaphysics?

    I thought it was just about defining things (I may have an overly simplified view). Isn't that were cosmology (i.e., a branch physics) came from too?

    And... don't scientists have to draw on some metaphysics when they're studying phenomenal observations (i.e. when they're on the forefront of discovery).

    Not saying that metaphysics doesn't come with a lot of BS too, but I was always under the impression that metaphysics basically dealt with defining things, so there's no limit to how false, true, or testable the ideas are.
  11. Jan 3, 2009 #10
    I guess I should elaborate that I don't condemn the investigation of these types of phenomenon but what does bug me is when people are constantly link them to government conspiracies or constantly support explanations that violate Ockham's razor. Violating Ockham's razor is necessary sometimes to find the real explanation sometimes but it isn't the best heuristic to use it ALL the time.

    As for UFOs I agree completely with Richard Feynman's statement: "From my knowledge of the world that I see around me, I think that it is much more likely that the reports of flying saucers are a result of the known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence rather than the unknown rational efforts of extraterrestrial intelligence"
  12. Jan 3, 2009 #11


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    If it's necessary to 'multiply entities', then doing so is not a violation of Occam's razor.
  13. Jan 3, 2009 #12
    Could ignore those that try and further these things. Pretty Simple
  14. Jan 3, 2009 #13
    A very important thing to keep in mind... Don't tell them these things are stupid or bunk or that only naive people would believe them. Essentially if these people give creedence to psuedoscience you will be insulting them by refering to those things that they take seriously as silly or idiotic. If you are interested in educating people then they must have your respect if they are to give you any.

    Also keep in mind that a person may resist changing their mind. Most of us humans are pretty stuborn. So give them time. If they are truely interested in learning and you have been able to inspire them to take a closer look at the things that they believe then eventually they will come around. Some times a person has to look into and research things themself, as they should. An idea rings truer to the person who discovers it in their own way and in their own time.
  15. Jan 3, 2009 #14


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    But many people want to believe in the "incredible" and "mystical" because it's more exciting to them and easier for them to grasp than the scientific facts.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2009
  16. Jan 3, 2009 #15
    I have found that brass knuckles, poison gas, assault rifles, and long range missiles are all effective.

    Or you can just use logic.
  17. Jan 3, 2009 #16
    People have an ability to believe in something, but the belief itself doesn't guarantee that what you believe is factual or real. One needs to go a step further and systematically screen for inconsistencies or else risk falling for this psychological trap.

    I guess that if people looked at their own thought process in more detail, and asked themselves questions like why did I think about this, or why I believed in this or that, it would clear their minds a little bit, and maybe start the screening process. But if the people don't do it on their own, perhaps (haven't tried it) we should ask the right questions so they can articulate their own thoughts.
  18. Jan 3, 2009 #17
    first thing to consider is whether it's any of your business and should you just move along
  19. Jan 3, 2009 #18
    Would you specifically define "metaphysics" please.
  20. Jan 3, 2009 #19
    Explain your points calmly and logically. Most people are reasonable, and will give up unreasonable beliefs and points of view once they are exposed as such.
  21. Jan 3, 2009 #20
    Have you ever argued with an evolution denier? How about a 9-11 truther? Anti-vaccination crowd?

    I don't think you have.
  22. Jan 3, 2009 #21
    what do you mean?
  23. Jan 3, 2009 #22
    If it were the nutty people believing their own nutty ideas and not bothering anyone else, I'd agree to just ignore them. But, they keep getting elected to schoolboards, or getting put in charge of textbook selection, or being picked to be administrator of one of the federal watchdog agencies. So, intellectually honest people have to stand up to this nonsense lest we wind up just saying no to a pandemic.
  24. Jan 3, 2009 #23


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    Such questioning and re-examination is called epistemology, and Einstein appealed for its enthusiastic re-application during his memoriam on the death of Ernst Mach. Didn't happen then - ain't happening now.
  25. Jan 3, 2009 #24
    ok so I won't bother.
  26. Jan 3, 2009 #25
    Argue evolution with any christian fundamentalist, see how quickly they "give up unreasonable beliefs and points of view once they are exposed as such."

    Same thing if you try to explain evidence of vaccine safety with the anti-vax crowd.

    Some people cling so tightly to their unreasonable (irrational) beliefs, and are able to compartmentalize their thinking sufficiently that they never actually confront any contradictions.
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